Stephen Barnard (
Tue, 03 Sep 1996 21:37:11 -0800

Susan wrote:
> As I understand it, the problem is partly that people genuinely don't
> think about consequences when they commit at least some crimes. They are
> either done in a moment of high emotion, when thinking is just not on the
> agenda, or they don't believe they will get caught. Or they deny that
> they are committing a crime, believing that people made them do it, or
> denying responsibility in other ways. The result seems to be that people
> who really believe they might get caught don't commit crimes, as
> predicted above. But the rest do, thereby making up the criminal
> population.

Exactly. Homicides are primarily committed in the heat of passion or by
self-loathing, irrational sociopaths. The notion that death as opposed to life
without parole would be an effective deterrent is ludicrous.

There is an argument for capital punishment -- retribution. I believe that it is
a valid argument. I believe that some people deserve to die for what they've

There are, however, some serious problems with that argument. One is that the
retribution is final, and if an innocent person is executed there is no recourse.
Another is that executions actually brutalize society, as can be shown by
reductio ad absurdum: If there are people who deserve to die then there must be
people who deserve much worse. Merely dying is too easy for these people. They
should be tortured to death as hideously as possible (in full public view for
maximal deterrent). We choose not to do that because the violation of societal
norms outweighs the "justice" to be had.

Steve Barnard